Searching 3.0: OPM and Figures of Speech

I found an interesting query among last week’s Search Terms:

My OPM favorites post has a few examples but it doesn’t explicitly state which lines count as personification. Anyhow, I decided to do some further digging and learn about the different ways figurative language has featured in OPM lyrics. Initially I wanted to explore at least 10 figures of speech but since I get way too chatty about these things, I eventually narrowed them down to three: simile, metaphor, and personification.

Note that I am not a living OPM archive so the songs on this post are pretty much demonstrative of my personal taste in music and of the demographic I belong to. And, as always, if you have any interesting lyrics to share and/or mixtapes to promote, feel free to drop them all down in the comments below. ๐Ÿ™‚

Simile / Pagtutulad

Similes compare two typically unlike objects by using the words “as” or “like” or “parang” or “tulad.” There are other variations of these words in Filipino including “tila”, “mistula”, and “kasing-“.

A simple, straightforward example can be found in syd hartha’s “tila tala”:

Tila tala sa kalangitan
Kaakit-akit subalit
Ako’y hanggang tingin lang

syd hartha, tila tala

In these lines, the persona likens the star to the person she admires. Stars are a pretty popular reference in pop music, and OPM alone has probably covered all stages of stellar evolution, from pagkutitap to pagkahulog to pagkawala ng ningning.

But the use of similes in OPM doesn’t always have to be trite. Orange & Lemons has compared eyes to auto-parts in “Heaven Knowns (This Angel Has Flown)” (“and my eyes / are like windshields / on a rainy day“) and Eraserheads has portrayed restlessness via sub-atomic particles in “Saturn Return” (“destination unknown / impatient like a nervous electron“).

One of the most memorable similes in Pinoy music history is also an original dopey line from a beloved turn-of-the-century classic:

Para kang sphinx
Ugali mo’y napaka-stingx

Salbakuta, Stupid Love

The simile in Salbakuta’s “Stupid Love” equates an unfaithful ex-girlfriend to the Egyptian mythical creature known for its treacherous nature (ang taas, hindi ba?). The song’s chorus, sampled from Barbra Streisand’s “Evergreen”, is also a collection of similes (“love, soft as an easy chair / love, fresh as the morning air“).

Similes in OPM also often come in bulk. The verses of Munimuni’s “Sa ‘Yo” has a list of similes that compare a lover’s body parts to naturally occurring phenomena (e.g. “ang buhok mo’y parang gabing numinipis”, “ang ngiti mo’y parang isang tala”).

BP Valenzuela’s “Even If You Asked Me” also mentions not one, not two, but three similes (and a metaphor):

You smelled like smoke
And tasted like fire
You hurt like a burn
Now you’re just a scar

BP Valenzuela, Even If You Asked Me

I like the progression of the stanza above because the similes are thematically and chronologically linked. Aegis’ “Sinta”, meanwhile, also has multi-similes that are interconnected, not by images, but by the way they sound (a.k.a pun):

Sintamis ng wine
Sintatag ng sunshine

Aegis, Sinta

Lines like these show how lyrics in Filipino or Tagalog can play around with even the stalest clichรฉs. Take the statement love is like a drug for example. This line has been used way too many times in pop music, but Bamboo re-frames the simile by laying out a distinctly Pinoy scene in “Masaya”:

Pagkagising ko’y nakita ko si Juan
Na siyang adik sa aming lugar
Parang droga daw ang bisa
Na ginamit niya kanina
Sa una lang daw masarap

Ang pag-ibig

Bamboo, Masaya

By channeling the love-is-a-drug comparison through a resident adik, Bamboo enables a tired clichรฉ to pack a solid punch. Aray. โœŠ๐Ÿ˜ข

Metaphor / Pagwawangis

Metaphors also portray comparisons but without using the words “like” or “tulad.” Instead of looking for these keywords, we identify a metaphor by determining which objects are being compared.

Typically we have a tenor — the main object to which certain characteristics are assigned (i.e. ‘yung kinukumpara) — and a vehicle — the other object from which these characteristics are borrowed (i.e. ‘yung pinagkukumparahan).

Let’s look at the word “home” or “tahanan” for example. Home is a fairly common vehicle in pop music, and many songs have drawn comparisons from its various characteristics: a permanent abode, a place of solace, a basic need (#SaveSanRoque).

Home is the addressed lover in IV of Spades’ “Mundo” (“aking sinta / ikaw na ang tahanan at mundo”), and home is also the essential need in Ben&Ben’s “Ride Home”:

So I’m coming home to you, you
You’re all I need, the very air I breathe
You are home

Ride Home, Ben&Ben

While the vehicle bears the weight of the metaphor, the tenor on the other hand is often the lover, the proverbial “you” or “ikaw,” in OPM love songs. Franco, for one, has equated “you” with various metaphorical vehicles, from weather temperament in “Seasons” (“you’re the warmth of summer / I walk towards your light”) to an object that satiates hunger in “Lover’s Fire” (“you sinful food / you taste so good”).

Sometimes the tenor can be other pronouns like “sila” or “ako” or “tayo.” In BLKD’s “Gatilyo,” for instance, the rapper calls for active political participation by comparing “tayo” with the trigger of a gun:

‘Pagkat sa daing ay dahas ang cariรฑo
Pagmulat ay pagkasa, tayo ang gatilyo

BLKD, Gatilyo

An example of a non-pronoun tenor in OPM can be found in fando & lis’ “What Time Is It There?”, a duet between long-distance partners:

You’re sleeping / You’re swimming
The sea is our bed, don’t wake us

fando & lis, What Time Is It There?

These lines equate the sea and the bed to portray the expansive distance between the singing lovers. Another layer of meaning could also be extrapolated by recognizing the contrast between the activities involved — sleeping versus swimming — and the implied resignation (and comfort?) in the phrase “don’t wake us.” I contend that these lyrics count as a complex metaphor.

Interesting comparisons in OPM can also be found in conceptual metaphors, that which when abstract concepts are concretized by ascribing them physical attributes. Imago, I think, is notorious for metaphors concerning geography. They sing about a “lalawigan ng noon” in “Sa Ngalan Mo”, and they also have these lines from “Sundo”:

Nilibot ang distrito ng iyong lumbay
Pupulutin, pupulutin ka

Imago, Sundo

My favorite OPM metaphors, however, are the ones that are sustained all throughout the song. Ebe Dancel’s “Bawat Daan” is a good example; it consistently uses travel-related images and compares “ikaw” to various cartographic points:

Kung ang puso ay aking imamapa
Ikaw ang dulo, gitna, at simula

Ebe Dancel, Bawat Daan

Ourselves the Elves’ “Self Is Universe” also draws comparisons between the self and, well, the universe under the hypothesis that multiverses exist (“the self, oh the self / is universe too…your alternate self, your other self / will overcome you”).

However, the song with an extended metaphor that I find most interesting is Parokya ni Edgar’s “Choco Latte”, mainly because it seems to have achieved what Plato and Aristotle call organic unity (charotz!). The song’s narrative is interspersed with various chocolate-related imagery, but the primary metaphor compares chocolates to “tiwala” in a relationship:

Ewan ko ba kung bakit mahirap ibalik
Sa original na hugis ‘pag nalusaw na sa init

Parokya ni Edgar, Choco Latte

Ano ang nalusaw sa init? Ang tsokolate? Ang tiwala? Ooooh. ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿ˜‚

Personification / Pagsasatao

Personification basically attributes human-like characteristics to non-human objects or concepts. This should be obvious, I think, but the uninitiated student might confuse personification with metaphor or simile (which is fine; they’re often compounded anyway).

For test-taking purposes, however, the key is to spot the object or the concept and ask whether said object or concept is being made to do what humans typically do. Let’s have a look at Fools and Foes’ “+63” as an example:

Right here, the sun paints the city gold
Tall trees come waving at him

Fools and Foes, +63

The sun does not paint and trees don’t have hands to wave (unless they’re Ents, charing). So obviously, the example above personifies both the sun and the trees. Gets? Gets.

Anyway, more examples. Body parts are commonly personified in Pinoy pop. The great Jolina Magdangal starts “Paper Roses” with “I realize the way your eyes deceived me / with tender looks that I mistook for love“, while Up Dharma Down sings about the heart in “Oo”:

Kung ako’y nagkasala, patawad na sana
Ang puso kong pagal, ngayon lang nagmahal

Up Dharma Down, Oo

Water is also another object/concept that is typically personified in OPM. Autotelic sings about waves in “Languyin” (“lamunin man ng alon / handa akong la-la-la-languyin”) while Sandwich sings of murky stormwater in “Putik”:

Pumasok sa pinto nang hindi inimbita
Nilamon ang lamesa, tv, radyo at sofa

Sandwich, Putik

These two examples exhibit familiar Filipino experiences, from sustaining long-distance relationships due to the country’s labor export policy, to suffering through typhoons that wreck havoc across homes and cities.

Rico Blanco’s “Yugto” meanwhile personifies an animal, a snake specifically, while invoking Christian references:

Sa gitna ng kagubatan may ahas na hahalik
Tatawagin kang kaibigan na pinaka matalik
Pupulupot sa leeg mo’t sisipsip ng iyong dugo
Ipapako ka sa krus kapag ikaw ay natuyo

Rico Blanco, Yugto

Sometimes, however, personifications do not bear easily understandable meanings, at least to my admittedly limited comprehension. Take these lines from Yลซrei’s “Plastic”:

On the mountaintop, the flowers sing in D minor and / With glassy eyes, they will expose their own weaknesses

Yลซrei, Plastic

I like the song, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t fully understand what the lyrics are about. Are they alluding to Nirvana’s “Spank Thru”? Hrmm.

See, sometimes even my mapagmarunong self also gets confused about these figures of speech. What about the Sexbomb Girls’ “Spaghetti Song”? Spaghetti noodles don’t typically go “pababa nang pababa” or “pataas nang pataas” — are they being personified? Hmm.

When it comes to straightforward examples, the most obvious, I think, are those that personify love. Barbie Almalbis’ “Ambon” personifies both love and the clouds in the lines “at nangangarap na maanggihan man lang / ng pag-ibig mong binihag ng mga ulap”. Ang Bandang Shirley also assigns human attributes to love in the song “Siberia”:

May dumating na pag-ibig
Sa malayo nanggaling
Distansya ang kalaban
Ng naglapit na damdamin

Ang Bandang Shirley, Siberia

And that’s all I have for tonight. There are probably better examples out there and I’m sure I can think of 10 more interesting figures of speech in OPM if you ask me another day.

Hopefully the kids from Google or Bing learn a thing or two from this post. Or at the very least, I hope they discover new songs to listen to. ๐Ÿ™‚


  1. (The) Name's Not At All Relevant

    Hi Jolens,
    Just dropping by to say:
    1. thank you for the short course on Literary Criticism 101. Would it be too much to ask if you extend it to non-OPM? I already read a ton of your accounts of dissecting songs but I’d love to read how you will do this to your favorite lyrics
    2. I have this vision that you’re pondering on the secrets of quantum physics and the universe while writing this piece
    3. please don’t stop writing ๐Ÿ™‚
    your (r)abid fan,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jolens

      Naaaaaks nagcomment siya! Hahaha. ๐Ÿ˜€

      1. Parang mas Literary Devices 101 siguro ito kaysa Literary Criticism. Pero sige, pupunta rin tayo d’yan balang araw. Haha. Try ko rin mag-non OPM next time! ๐Ÿ™‚

      2. Slight lang, haha. Mas ginawa ko ‘yang pag-ponder sa quantum physics after ko mapanood ‘yung latest Avengers. Uma-eigenvalues e. ๐Ÿ˜‚

      3. Salamat sa pagtangkilik sa mga hanash ko! Gawa ka rin ng ganito kung trip mo, figures of speech sa mga paborito mong kanta naman hehehe. ๐Ÿ˜€


  2. rAdishhorse

    hey, ang ganda nito.. pero napaisip muna ako, ano na nga ba yun personification? hehe
    at andami kong comments.

    ang ganda ng tila tala (alliteration?), piniplay ko ngayon, at agree ako sa sinabi mo sa Salbakuta.
    at “napaka-stingx” pala yon. haha. palaisipan talaga sa’kin yung mga ganung lyrics pag naririnig ko dati.
    ganun din yung “wine” at “sunshine” ng aegis, iniisip ko kung anong word yun.

    favorite ko rin yung Masaya ng Bamboo, mainly dahil sa simile na yan. haha.
    pero mas favorite ko yung existential angst (nga ba ‘yon?) ng Hudas.
    para siyang existential angst ng isang tambay sa kanto habang umiinom ng gin.

    nakarinig nako ng 1,2 kanta ni BP.
    pero di ba parang hi-skul poetry yung lyrics niya.
    at saka pa’no siya naiiba or na se-set apart sa tulad ng

    knife! cuts like a knife!
    how will i ever heal
    i’m so DEEEEEEP-ly wounded, knife

    haha. wala lang maka-pang kontra lang. hehe.
    btw, parang Katy Perry pala yung Pretty Car.

    medyo nakakapa-kunot-noo ang mga conceptual metaphors ng Imago no?
    ito paborito kong line sa Choco Latte: kadiri nang kainin, mukha nang ta—-ewan ko ba kung bakit mahirap ibalik…

    wag mo isipin ano ibig sabihin nung kanta ng Yurei, parang wala naman talaga gustong sabihin
    ito lang yun, ninakaw nila kay Kurt yung D Minor na line. hehe.
    di lang pala yun, pati style ng pagkanta at pagtugtog nila, hahaha.

    I like Themsongs, didn’t like Tama Na Ang Drama and I think “Ambon” is a good example why I don’t like Tama Na Ang Drama or Siberia.
    I mean, โ€œat nangangarap na maanggihan man lang / ng pag-ibig mong binihag ng mga ulapโ€—that’s poetry.

    This, in comparison, is something even a grade-schooler could come up with:
    May dumating na pag-ibig
    Sa malayo nanggaling
    Distansya ang kalaban
    Ng naglapit na damdamin

    Hahaha. Makapang-kontra lang ulit. Hehehe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jolens

      Gusto ko ‘yung nagsimula ka sa “hey” hahaha. ๐Ÿ˜‚

      Gustong-gusto ko rin ang “Tila Tala” (alliterative nga!). Maganda rin ‘yung kanta niyang “Iglap” hehe. Fun fact: anak siya ni Marcus Adoro. Hehehe.

      Akshali hindi ko sure kung “stingx” nga ‘yan. Ganyan ko lang siya kantahin kaya ganyan sinulat ko, pero ‘di ko alam kung tama. Haha.

      Leche ‘yung kniiiife! Nakakainiiiiis hahahahaha. Oo nga ‘no, parang ganyan nga ‘yung kanta ni BP. I guess medyo basic nga ‘yung lyrics ni ate pero trip ko naman ‘yung overall na tunog niya, so keri lang. Haha.

      Okay lang sa akin ‘yung conceptual metaphors ng Imago. Bet ko nga e, haha. Kung may oras ako susuyurin ko ang mga kanta nila at iguguhit in mapa form ‘yung mga metaphors nila na may kinalaman sa lugar. Haha.

      Gusto ko rin ‘yang linyang ‘yan sa “Choco Latte”! Parang recurring nga ‘yung “ta-ewan” part e. Itong kanta yata ang may best Parokya lyrics para sa akin, hahaha.

      Napansin ko rin ‘yang D minor line from Nirvana at ‘yung similar na tunog! Kaya trip ko ‘yung kanta e, parang 90’s o 2000’s rakrakan. Pixies, Blur, ganyan. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Hay nako, hindi ikaw ang unang pumuna sa lyrics ng Ang Bandang Shirley na kakilala ko. Grabe kayo! Hahaha. Agree naman ako na hindi sila lyrical masters. ‘Yung “Iyong”, halimbawa, gusto ko ‘yung kanta pero ‘di ko masyadong trip ‘yung lyrics. Sabi, “tumigil ang buhay / parang slow-mo, makulay.” Nakaka-LSS pero kapag pinag-isipan mo na, parang walang unity ‘yung images. Hindi consistent ang pagtigil at ang pagbagal, at parang wala ring pinanggalingan ‘yung kulay. Hmp.

      But anyway, I think may clever wordplays naman ang Shirley kahit paano. Cute ‘yung pun sa Maginhawa (“ang daming nangyayari / isang daan”) at gusto ko rin ‘yung implicit metaphor on home sa “Nakauwi Na” (“basta makasama ka / ako’y nakauwi na”). Basic ‘yung language, basic ‘yung construction, pero may dating pa rin para sa akin. Sorry na, gusto ko talaga mga kanta nila e. Hahaha. ๐Ÿ˜€

      Gawin mo rin ‘to rAdish! Or something like this. Feeling ko may arsenal ka ng OPM songs d’yan na masayang himayin e. Hehe. ๐Ÿ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

      1. rAdishhorse

        @ anak ni Marcus Adoro: whoa (dapat may Keanu Reeeves react/emoji na rin no?)
        iniisip ko si Marcus ‘yong pinaka hindi singer sa ‘Heads (not to take anything away from him) pero anak niya yung naunang sumonod sa…

        “Kung may oras ako susuyurin ko ang mga kanta nila at iguguhit in mapa form โ€˜yung mga metaphors nila na may kinalaman sa lugar. Haha.” — Haha. Oo nga. Time lang prob. Gawan mo ng cartoons na parang kay Wrong Hand or Wrong Hands(?). I mean, ok naman sila. medyo parang off or weird or “kakaiba” lang sa unang dinig. Parang si Aia lang gumagawa ng ganun.

        Mas gusto ko pala yung personification sa “Napapanahon” ng Sandwich: sumisisid na lansangan… pati tubig walang daanan…

        Ganun din ang comment ko sa “Iyong” na medyo palaisipan din ang ibig sabihin ng title. Title at lyrics—first draft ba ito? Hahaha-harsh! Para siyang bitin na ewan na malamang ay mga theories ang mga ABS fans kung anong ibig sabihin talaga, Tumigil ba talaga o bumagal lang… ang buhay ba o ang oras? Mamamatay ka ba pag tumigil ang buhay? Tsaka ano iyong ihihinga sa tenga? Nag-google translate ba sila from English?

        Pero ito talaga ang paborito ko: Nakapikit ang yong mata, sigurado sa ginagawa. I know, it’s most probably about playing music or playing with the band. Pero mas may makulay akong interpretation: it’s about oral sex. Hahaha.

        Ok naman yung Nakauwi Na at yung Di Na Babalik (paborito ng mga privileged kids aka Ang Nawawala fans, most of the songs, meh. The best song is Glacier, tho medyo di ko gusto yung lyrics na “i’m a human guitar string.” Napansin ko lang siya kasi binasa ko yun lyrics, pero OK naman kung pakikinggan lang di ko siya mapapapansin. Na-imagine ko kasi yung “human string” tapos nag vi-vibrate siya. Ang pangit. hehehe.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jolens

          Uuy oo nga, mas oks nga ‘yung sa “Napapanahon”! Sa mga batang nagbabasa ng comments d’yan, take note n’yo! Haha.

          So pinakinggan ko nang paulit-ulit ang “Iyong” at na-realize ko na, oo nga, mukhang nag-Google Translate nga sila ng lyrics. ๐Ÿ˜€ Baka ‘yun ‘yung concept? Kunin ‘yung cliche lines ng English love songs tapos i-translate? Tapos “iyong” means “yours”, ganyan? Ewan, hahaha.

          Grabe ‘yung oral sex! Reach! Hahaha. Ako naisip ko momol, hehe.

          Huuuy, alam mo ba sobrang na-hype ako sa Ang Nawawala noon dahil sa Ciudad at kay Felix Roco! Hahaha. Pero hindi ako burgis indie kid a; feeling out-of-place nga ako sa Saguijo at B-Side e. Tsaka I didn’t end up liking Ang Nawawala. Napanood mo ba ever ‘yung Rakenrol movie ni Quark Henares? ‘Di ko rin super bet, pero sobrang benta sa akin n’ung kantang “Alaala” hehe.

          Gusto ko rin Glacier! Pangit nga ‘yung “human guitar string” image haha, pero kilig-hurt ako sa “and i’d like to believe / that you seek / the pleasure of my company.” Ahuehuehue. ๐Ÿ˜‚


          1. rAdishhorse

            And for every โ€œand iโ€™d like to believe / that you seek / the pleasure of my company.โ€, meron silang something like “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” na lyrics. Or yung “sigurado sa ginagawa.” whatever that means. Hahaha

            Di ko pa man napapanood Ang Nawawala sobrang turned off na ko. Hehe. Napanood ko na Rakenrol, sobrang benta sa akin nung Alamid joke. Medyo meta rin si Jackie Rocha. Mas ok sana kung may self-aware moment si Diether Ocampo. Aware kaya siya na na-mock yung rockstar image niya? Pero meh yung movie. Alaala ba yung kanta ni guy kay Glaiza. Meh rin para sa akin yun. Hehehe. Rentahin mo na lang sa pinamalapit na VideoCity yung Keka. Sugarfree Unang Araw ang opening song, tapos Ciudad Dessiebelle ang closing song.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Jolens

            Grabe ka talaga maka-hate sa Shirley! Hahaha. Pero agree, oo nga, tanggap ko na na hindi sila lyrical geniuses okay?? ๐Ÿ™‚

            Bakit turned off ka sa Ang Nawawala? Hindi ko na maalala ‘yung Rakenrol. I guess hindi nagstick sa akin ang Alamid joke, haha. ‘Yung “Alaala” si Glaiza mismo ‘yung kumakanta, at gusto ko si Glaiza hehe.

            O sige hahanapin ko ‘yang Keka. Nako ha, kapag ‘yan hindi maganda! Hahaha. ๐Ÿ™‚


          3. rAdishhorse

            sorry na. hehe. advance sorry na rin para sa upcoming “review” ko sa Tama Na Ang Drama.

            heto yung joke. alam ko nasa youtube din yun clip. di ba barista si ketchup dun?

            Scene: sa coffee shop
            Other guy: (hinawakan yung bote ng kape) Ito yung galing sa tae ng Alamid?
            Ketchup: galing sa TAE ng VOCALIST ng ALAMID!

            (RIP Garry Ignacio)

            Liked by 1 person

          4. Jolens

            Okay, funny nga ang joke. HAHAHA.

            Wait, seryoso na may lalabas kang review ng Tama Na Ang Drama?? Asan naaaa??? Ilabas na ‘yan pleeeeeeazzeee!!! ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€


          5. Jolens

            Ooooh, gets. Nabasa ko rin ‘yan sa rebyu ni Sir Roland. Actually marami sa indie bands ngayon ganyan ang aesthetic e. Sina BP, etc. Batay sa mga kanta nila masi-sense mong may kaya sila sa buhay, hehe.

            Liked by 1 person

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